Spanish Civil War seen as religious conflict, biographer says

.- Biographer Joseph Pearce says the famous South African poet Roy Campbell saw the Spanish Civil War as a religious conflict between Christianity and atheistic modernism.

In a recent interview with CNA, Pearce said Campbell – who was the inspiration behind the character Aragorn in Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” – believes “the war in Spain was a battle between Christian tradition and atheistic modernism. In other words, he saw it as a religious conflict.”

As the publication nears for his new book, “Roy Campbell: Spain Saved My Soul,” Pierce pointed to an episode in the poet’s life in which he saved various manuscripts written by St. John of the Cross from anti-clerical forces. 

While living in Toledo in the 1930s, Campbell and his wife Mary became close friends with the Carmelite friars, “one of whom became their confessor,” while “Mary became a third order Carmelite.”

“For this reason the friars confided in the Campbells and considered them the best people to safeguard the extremely valuable papers of the great saint and poet,” Pearce said.

During “the assault by anti-clerical forces on his home, Campbell was worried that his family would be killed, especially if the manuscripts were discovered. 

Faced with this mortal situation, he prayed to St. John of the Cross and promised to translate his poetry into English if he and his family survived,” Pearce recounted.

Campbell was considered one of the greatest translators of St. John of the Cross as well as one of the  most significant poets of his time, the biographer added. “Critics acclaimed him, and his works became bestsellers.” 

Although Campbell was “never very political, at least not in terms of ideology,” he “passionately opposed the Nazis as well as the Communists, and he fought in the British army during World War II,” Pearce said.

His estrangement from the Bloomsbury Circle – a group of early 20th century writers who criticized religion – was inevitable, even before his conversion to Catholicism, Pearce added.

“He had already distanced himself from its hedonistic progressivism since its beginnings and never felt comfortable with the group,” Pearce said.

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